The best books to make you want to visit more gardens

Natasha Goodfellow Author Of A Cotswold Garden Companion: An Illustrated Map and Guide
By Natasha Goodfellow

Who am I?

I’m a journalist and garden writer who discovered the joys of gardens 20 years ago when I got my own small backyard in London. Since then, I’ve studied horticulture, I’ve worked with garden designers, and I’ve travelled the country writing about gardens great and small. I’m interested in their history, their planting, and, most of all, how they make you feel, which is what I try to distill into my guides. 


I wrote...

A Cotswold Garden Companion: An Illustrated Map and Guide

By Natasha Goodfellow, Jo Parry (illustrator),

Book cover of A Cotswold Garden Companion: An Illustrated Map and Guide

What is my book about?

Between Chipping Campden in the north and Bradford on Avon in the south lie the Cotswolds – almost 800 square miles of sheep-speckled hills, golden stone villages, and beautiful gardens galore. 

This indispensable illustrated map and guide offers the ideal introduction, taking in everything from Jacobean gems and classics of the English landscape movement to some of the finest contemporary gardens around today. You’ll meet royal gardeners, car-park gardeners, plant hunters, and inveterate collectors, as well as discovering all manner of horticultural highlights, from national collections of walnuts, foxgloves, and flowering cherries, to the strawberry beds that inspired William Morris’s fabric designs – not to mention a sprinkling of garden shops and plant nurseries just too good to miss.

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The books I picked & why

The Gardener's Garden

By Phaidon Press, Toby Musgrave, Madison Cox, Ruth Chivers

Book cover of The Gardener's Garden

Why this book?

The first thing to say is that this is an absolute tome of a book – really heavy and certainly not something to take on your commute. But it’s well worth the arm strain. Packed with glorious pictures of gardens across the world it seduces with glimpses of beauty as yet undreamed of and provides new angles on gardens already visited. As a result of this book, I have my sights firmly set on the renaissance extravaganza that is Villa D'Este in Italy, on the romantic Jardins du Prieuré d’Orsay in France and on the naturalistic Arboretum Kalmthout in Belgium. 

The Gardener's Garden

By Phaidon Press, Toby Musgrave, Madison Cox, Ruth Chivers

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Gardener's Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The ultimate garden book - both a collection of gardens from around the world and a resource for those seeking inspiration on garden design and planting. Featuring over 250 permanent gardens by leading garden designers, horticulturalists and landscape architects, from the 14th century to the present day, and covering all key types and styles of garden, this well-illustrated compendium combines images, text, key information and captions for each of the featured gardens, appealing to both amateur and professional gardeners, as well as garden designers.


Book cover of The Pleasure Garden: An Illustrated History of British Gardening

Why this book?

This is a book with a spring in its step. A lively romp through the history of British gardens from the Romans to the city patio garden, it is highly illuminating and bursts with amusing facts and anecdotes. I particularly enjoyed learning about Canon Ellacombe, an avid plant collector and angler, and chuckled to hear that architect Sir William Chambers complained of the Landscape Movement "that whole woods had been swept away 'to make room for a little grass and a few American weeds'." Even if you don’t read a line, Osbert Lancaster’s witty illustrations ably sum up the various styles. 

The Pleasure Garden: An Illustrated History of British Gardening

By Anne Scott-James, Osbert Lancaster,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Pleasure Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1977, The Pleasure Garden is an entertaining and concise history of English gardening by husband and wife team Osbert Lancaster and Anne Scott-James. In a series of beautifully observed and witty cartoon illustrations Osbert Lancaster captures the essence of gardening styles from Roman times through to the twentieth-century patio, as he did for styles of architecture in Pillar to Post and A Cartoon History of Architecture. The accompanying text by Anne Scott-James explains the work of garden-makers and designers and the native and newly arrived plants they used.


The Enchanted April

By Elizabeth von Arnim,

Book cover of The Enchanted April

Why this book?

I first read this book years ago and though it’s not really about a garden at all (it’s the story of how four women find happiness in an Italian castle on the shores of the Mediterranean), the descriptions of the flowers in this book have stayed with me since. "The lilies, the daphnes, the orange-blossom, the white stocks…." are so vividly painted you can almost smell them, to the point where just thinking about this book makes me long to be in a sunny garden, under a pergola ensconced in blooms.

The Enchanted April

By Elizabeth von Arnim,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Enchanted April as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Originally published in 1922, Elizabeth Von Arnim's The Enchanted April is a charming and light-hearted novel about unlikely female friendships and the power of a blissful escape.

Complete & Unabridged. Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, cloth-bound, pocket-sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover.

Four mismatched women respond to an advert in The Times offering a beautiful medieval castle to rent on the Italian Riviera. Bashful Mrs Wilkins, cheerless Mrs Arbuthnot, widowed Mrs Fisher and socialite Lady Caroline Dester are each…


A Year in the Life of Beth Chatto's Gardens

By Fergus Garrett, Beth Chatto, Rachel Warne (photographer)

Book cover of A Year in the Life of Beth Chatto's Gardens

Why this book?

Anyone with an interest in gardens will want to visit Beth Chatto’s famous garden outside Colchester in Essex. What you’re unlikely to be able to do, unless you live locally, is to visit several times over the course of a year. This book, beautifully photographed by Rachel Warne, permits you that pleasure, allowing you to see how the garden changes through the seasons and enabling you to identify interesting plants you might like to try in your own plot. Stipa barbata and Ranunculus acris ‘Sulphureus’ are two of my favourite discoveries.

A Year in the Life of Beth Chatto's Gardens

By Fergus Garrett, Beth Chatto, Rachel Warne (photographer)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Year in the Life of Beth Chatto's Gardens as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Beth Chatto has been among the most influential British gardeners of the second half of the twentieth century. When she started to make her garden on an overgrown area of wasteland in Essex in 1960 she was faced with a range of widely differing conditions, from drought-stricken gravel through woodland to dense, silty bog. Applying the principles of ecological gardening, she set about finding plants that would suit these very different, awkward situations. The gardens she made - the Mediterranean garden on the sunny slopes, the shady woodland garden, the damp garden for water-loving plants, the drier than dry gravel…


The Secret Garden

By Frances Hodgson Burnett, Tasha Tudor (illustrator),

Book cover of The Secret Garden

Why this book?

A childhood favourite and one that bears re-reading as an adult to remind you not only of the dangers of being a self-absorbed, mean-spirited brat, but of the salvation that can be found in gardening and in simply noticing what is going on in the natural world around you. Again, the descriptions of the garden are transporting and when Dickon says, "it’s the best fun I ever had in my life – shut in here an’ wakenin’ up a garden," you can’t help but wish you were there with him. 

The Secret Garden

By Frances Hodgson Burnett, Tasha Tudor (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Secret Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a magical novel for adults and children alike

'I've stolen a garden,' she said very fast. 'It isn't mine. It isn't anybody's. Nobody wants it, nobody cares for it, nobody ever goes into it. Perhaps everything is dead in it already; I don't know.'

After losing her parents, young Mary Lennox is sent from India to live in her uncle's gloomy mansion on the wild English moors. She is lonely and has no one to play with, but one day she learns of a secret garden somewhere in the grounds that no…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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